‘Your civil rights don’t matter at Brown,’ says Title IX lawyer representing student in football player rape case

The student who says she was raped by three football players had her case dismissed

A lawyer representing the student who says she was raped by three Brown football players has accused the university for violating her civil rights.

A federal court threw out her case this week, ruling that because the student was not enrolled at Brown but Providence College, she cannot bring a Title IX case against the Ivy League school.

Jane Doe says after she was drugged and raped after a night out, she was forced to withdraw from her studies at Providence because she feared for her own safety.

Now in an interview with The Tab, Wendy Murphy, an attorney specializing in Title IX and professor at the New England School of Law, has condemned Brown for their "outrageous" decision.

There is no implication that the football players featured in the cover photo are linked to this article.

What does it mean that Brown dismissed Jane Doe's case because she wasn't a student there?

It is an outlier and an unusual ruling. We are appealing because civil rights laws, which include Title IX, are designed to protect the class, not just the individual. The ruling, which was Brown's position, is essentially that if you're not a student of the elite university – one of theirs – your civil rights don't matter, and that's really disturbing.

For example, picture a group of black football players from another school come to Brown to play and there's a white supremacist rally and they start throwing rocks at the black students and calling them names and sexually assaulting the black cheerleaders. If that happened by Brown students on Brown's campus to these visiting black students, Brown's position is they don't have to do anything. They can just watch it and do nothing, and that's the position that was endorsed by the court.

We made this point to the court and emphasized that what happened was undeniably under Brown's control and authority. Three Brown football players, enrolled at Brown University, physically and sexually brutalized a woman on Brown's campus in a Brown dormitory on Brown's property.

Brown cannot deny that the victim was a member of the protected class, that it was their property, that they were their students. Nor can Brown deny that it has a history of similar harm occurring to females on Brown's campus. That’s why they’re currently under federal investigation in my case and in another case for violating the Title IX rights of all women. This decision essentially says Brown didn’t have to do anything either before or after my client was brutalized and attacked because she was not one of theirs, one of their elite community. She’s not good enough for Brown to have to bother with in complying with civil rights laws.

Brown University

Brown University

What does it mean that Brown took that position?

For Brown to take that position – that they owe no responsibility under civil rights laws to students from marginalized classes, whether it’s race, national origin, religion, homosexuality or gender – Brown does not have to respect the civil rights of any of those classes of people unless they are enrolled at Brown. And what message does that send? Talk about exclusionary.

It’s tantamount to saying to the offenders out there looking to commit these offenses with impunity, it’s a recipe to them that they should be going to nearby universities and schools, bring young women and girls onto their campus, brutalize them, rape them and beat the hell out of them. Make sure they are not enrolled at Brown and you can walk free.

The ruling seems bleak for students looking to be protected at Brown.

The message is that Brown students can only get in trouble if they attack their own students. I don’t think it’s going to be upheld, because it’s not what civil rights say.

Education is an experience that is more than just sitting in a classroom and having the ability to learn in a diverse environment. It’s about being safe and being treated as an equal. You cannot protect and promote those values if your policy permits violence to occur to both types of protected individuals so long as they are not enrolled at Brown. That’s what’s so outrageous. In a sense, the judge said it’s OK to discriminate against black people, Jews, Muslims. It’s OK to discriminate even violently, in the form of physical and sexual brutalizing.

If Brown students start brutalizing and raping marginalized people, and the people they do it are all non-Brown students, even though they are on Brown’s campus, in front of anybody, Brown officials don’t have to stop the violence. They don’t have to do anything at all, so long as the people being attacked are not enrolled at Brown university

How does letting that violence occur with impunity promote or comply with the mandate that there be no discrimination on Brown’s campus? It promotes the opposite idea – that discrimination is perfectly acceptable. That is what is outrageous about this decision. It undermines everything that civil rights laws were supposed to do.

How did Brown fail to complete a disciplinary investigation into Jane Doe's case, as you said?

They didn’t do anything. They deferred to the police. The police uncovered certain text messages where one of the guys involved literally implicates another by saying: “X walks in and starts raping her.” My client was drugged – we had drug testing done after the fact. Brown officials did nothing to deter them.

To what extent can Brown’s football team be compared to Baylor’s?

I don’t know if I can give you the answer to that. I can tell you that we found out was that there was some pretty significant organization among team members that the police told us about. About two weeks before this happened, Jameis Winston at Florida State was accused of raped a student. There were news stories about what he did and it included that he and some buddies had allegedly gone to a bar, targeted a woman, put something in her drink, had a taxicab waiting out front, carried her out, took her to his room and gang-raped her. That’s exactly what happened to my client. They met her at a pub that both Brown and Providence College students went to. She had a drink but wasn’t drunk – she was drugged. They had a cab waiting out front. The cab drove them with her in the car to a Brown University dorm room where they raped her, one after the other, for hours. At one point she was vomiting. It was awful.

The team shared with each other their strategies and plans – that’s what the police told us. Some of that we haven’t gotten in detail yet. But one of the detectives told me at the time and only shared a bit of it.

In response to the court ruling earlier this week, a Brown spokesperson said: "Brown takes every allegation of sexual misconduct seriously and this case was no exception. We remain fully confident in the decisions made at Brown related to Jane Doe’s allegations."